The secret’s out. Don’t waste public money on sport -Times Online
Will spending more public money on sport help to tackle obesity? No chance. Gerry Sutcliffe, the new Sports Minister, will soon discover one of Whitehall’s best-kept secrets: sporting participation has not budged since 1994 despite an extra £3 billion of investment through the lottery and millions more from the taxpayer.
Couch potatoes have long felt aggrieved at having to subsidise the healthy choices of others but this statistic will give them an even bigger reason to march upon Westminster (if they can heave themselves off the settee). It is now clear that the great sporting experiment of recent years has failed to deliver the change in attitudes that was promised and has simply provided cheaper access to sport for those already familiar with the concept of exercise. The net result has been a super-size redistribution of wealth from the fat to the fit.
.... Ministers and lobbyists often argue that increased participation in sport could eliminate (or significantly reduce) the £3.3 billion annual cost to the economy of ill health, healthcare costs and lost output as a result of physical inactivity.
It is an argument with everything on its side except evidence. There are good data to suggest that regular exercise reduces such conditions as heart failure, diabetes and certain types of cancer, which would take some of the strain off the NHS and increase productivity and tax receipts. But what about the increased number of sports injuries? And what about the gargantuan extra costs of public pension provision and long-term care for the sporty types who survive into an ever riper old age?
When all long-term costs are taken into consideration, the financial benefit to the Treasury of increased participation is far less than is claimed in the platitudes that pass for argument in sporting circles. So in such circumstances public expenditure could only be justified on financial grounds if there were a direct and powerful impact upon participation. And this is in the context of sporting administrators splurging billions over the past decade without generating a single extra participant.
We should not make the mistake of supposing that the London Olympics will provide a miracle cure. The 2012 Games, which are likely to cost £9.3 billion, will do nothing for participation if previous Olympics are anything to go by. .....
If people want to hop, skip and jump then let them do so, at their own cost. Why should I be mulct to pay for their pleasures, they don't subsidise mine.